Saturday, January 15, 2005


E-mail has arrived that has me a little puzzled. The sender chose to use an anonymous service, so I don't know who wrote it. He or she is "the author of several novels" but didn't mention titles or publishers.

Sender tells me that I should be aware that other writers are ripping off my weblog, and gives URLs. I go look at one. The blog has a tag line very similar to mine. I check the next one. The blog has a couple of ten lists, again similar to my ten things lists.

The e-mail winds up asking me to post the URLs here as examples of plagiarism, and warns me that I should remove the link to my example character outline sheet before someone steals that.

I'm assuming this sender is in earnest, so let me answer seriously: Imitation is not plagiarism. Imitation is when someone models their work after yours. Same goes for weblogs. Plagiarism is when someone copies your work and publishes it under their name. If you're an author, you need to know the difference.

There are familiar phrases and concepts that anyone can use. Remember all the bruha about Al Franken using the phrase "fair and balanced" in the title of his book, and Fox News was going to sue him? Same thing. I certainly don't own the phrase "Writing Pro Since 1998." It's like putting "established 1886" on a landmark; anyone can do it. If you want to use it as a tag line for your weblog with the year you got published, no problem. Same goes for my ten things lists. I have seen lists like mine in more places than I can count. You can't own the number 10.

The character outline sheet, along with all the rest of the content here, is free to anyone for personal use. If you have a friend you'd like to pass it along to, go right ahead. If you'd like to use it for a class or seminar, please do. Remember when you make lots of copies or post it online to give me a link or byline credit. If anything here gives you an idea to do something similar on your weblog, be my guest, and thank you, I'm flattered.

I'd also like to thank the anonymous sender of this e-mail for the concern, but I've got no reply-to, thus this post.

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